Madrid: Horseback-riding in Manzanares El Real

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m adventurous, fearless to a fault, and hate to say no to new and enriching experiences. On the other hand, my sister is the more cautious, sensible one (she always said whereas she would see the dangers of things, I would see only the possibilities). So when our newfound Madrileña friend Almu (short for Almudena, patroness of Madrid) asked us if we wanted to go horseback-riding one weekend, I immediately jumped at the chance. I thought: wow! What a rare opportunity, how often do we get an invite to go horse-back riding in Spain??

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Almu asks: “Have you ever been on a horse before?”

“Yes!” I say. There have been a few times I’ve been on a horse, when some Filipino guy would be leading on foot the whole time, going slower than normal walking pace… or to pose for a photo.

“Great!” Almu says. “I’ll book us in for a Saturday ride.”

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But my sister wasn’t so sure. She had a point when she said we’ve never had any riding lessons before, so maybe we shouldn’t do it. But of course I wasn’t having any of that and persuaded her to go along with it.

My sister had the most docile horse befitting her disposition, while mine was WILD and almost unseated me.. serves me right
My sister had the most docile horse befitting her disposition, while mine was WILD and almost unseated me.. serves me right

So we showed up at the horse-riding place with no experience, no boots (Almu lent Joyce a pair while I used my heeled boots which I really don’t advice because it was difficult to get a grip…), a vague idea of what a horse-riding outfit should be, no helmet/hat, nothing but our eagerness to do it.

With a view of La Pedriza, the mountains north of Madrid
With a view of La Pedriza, the mountains north of Madrid

We paid 30 euros each for a 1-2 hour ride around the area of Manzanares el Real, the  ridge around 55km north of Madrid. The air was so fresh and crisp, the land verdant, and being on a horse was unspeakably relaxing once we got the hang of it.

Manzanares el Real
Manzanares el Real

But David – the owner and instructor – was not happy when we arrived and he realized we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. He was frowning the whole time he was giving us lessons, mostly because horseback riding is not as easy as it looks, and so many things can go wrong if you don’t know how to handle your horse. I was to find that out later on…

David leading the group
David leading the group

He taught us how to mount, hold the reins, direct the horse, and all the other basics. When he realized that we weren’t going to fall off our animals, he relaxed and allowed us to leave the enclosure. Apparently if we hadn’t been able to establish a good connection with the horses, he wouldn’t have let us out of the area to ride.

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My horse was a nightmare. While Joyce’s was gentle and obedient (like her!!) mine was stubborn, energetic, and kept resisting my lead because he wanted to eat. Apparently he was also exactly my age – 12 in horse years, 26 in human years. And he had exactly my disposition as well… when I saw myself in him (Joyce sniggered out a comment about my horse being just like me), I lost my fear because I felt I understood the animal and felt more comfortable and happy. I had to be led half the time, but the latter half I insisted on riding without a lead and it worked out! (See what I mean about having no fear and just wanting to wing things all the time… I’m lucky I haven’t broken any bones yet, knock on wood)

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That experience was yet another unforgettable one of many in Spain, and I would definitely want to get into it if I lived somewhere like this. It’s a different kind of zen from running or yoga… the connection with the animal makes all the difference, and I can now completely understand why and how people fall in love with riding. The horses are beautiful, strong, elegant, noble creatures and it’s an honour to have them as a traveling partner.

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Las Nieves Club Hípico SL

Urb Las Praderas, al final de la calle ppal, por la via pecuaria a la izq, a 200m.

28412 (Madrid) Cerceda

Teléfono móvil: +34 655 187 067

lasnievesch@gmail.com

www.lasnievesclubhipico.com 

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